Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

This is the story of Dorrigo Evans, a surgeon. His sole purpose in life is to survive and to use his medical knowledge to help the men around him to do the same. Dorrigo is a POW in Japan, slaving on the building of the Burma Death Railway.

Dorrigo is also  haunted by the love affair he had with the young wife of his uncle. As he clings to these memories amidst chaos and devastation, his whole future is being defined by the death and destruction around him:

Forever after, there were for them only two sorts of men: the men who were on the Line, and the rest of humanity, who were not."

This is a very worthy winner of this years Man Booker Prize and is one of the most powerful  novels I have read in quite some time and I am certain that it will stay with me for a long time. It’s intensity is unrelenting and I was completely gripped by this book.

This book is devastatingly beautiful. In so many ways it is not a pretty read. It describes the horrors of life as a POW; dysentery, cholera, beatings  etc but is composed in such a profound and unassuming style that I was completely entranced by this book. On several occasions I had to just stop reading  to contemplate and absorb what I had read and allow the horror and simplicity of the words sink in.

The characters in this book are vividly drawn, flaws and all, and I found myself empathising with most of them. Even those characters who do not play a large part in the book, Mr. Flanagan was able to bring them to life in such a way as they became integral to the plot.

The themes of this book are many and it is hard to pin them  down to a few words; love, loss, war, friendship, despair. The list could go on but suffice to say that the book considers war and it’s aftermath on the lives of ordinary people.

Mr Flanagan’s father was himself a POW on the Death Railway and the author has based much of this work on his father’s first hand experiences. This has enabled him to write a novel which is unflinchingly honest and filled with humanity.

This is a stunning book and easily one of the best I have read. The author is  a very deserving winner of the Man Booker prize and  I am very keen to look out some other of his books. I recommend this book very highly and encourage you all to read this for yourselves.

ISBN: 978-0701189051

Publisher: Chatto and Windus

Price: £10.99 on

About the Author: 

Born in Tasmania in 1961, Richard Flanagan is one of Australia’s leading novelists. His novels, Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould's Book of Fish (winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize),The Unknown Terrorist and Wanting have received numerous honours and been published in 26 countries. His father, who died the day Flanagan finished The Narrow Road to the Deep North, was a survivor of the Burma Death Railway.

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